St Clether's Chapel and Holy Well


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018492

Date first listed: 24-Apr-1978

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Sep-1998


Ordnance survey map of St Clether's Chapel and Holy Well
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: St. Clether

National Grid Reference: SX 20226 84591


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

A medieval chapel is a building, usually rectangular, containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate for Christian worship in the pre- Reformation period. Chapels were designed for congregational worship and were generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provided accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which was the main domain of the priest and contained the principal altar. Around 4000 parochial chapels were built between the 12th and 17th centuries as subsidiary places of worship built for the convenience of parishioners who lived at a distance from the main parish church. Other chapels were built as private places of worship by manorial lords and lie near or within manor houses, castles or other high-status residences. Chantry chapels were built and maintained by endowment and were established for the singing of masses for the soul of the founder. Some chapels possessed burial grounds. Unlike parish churches, the majority of which remain in ecclesiastical use, chapels were often abandoned as their communities and supporting finances declined or disappeared. Many chantry chapels disappeared after the dissolution of their supporting communities in the 1540s. Chapels, like parish churches, have always been major features of the landscape. A significant number of surviving examples are identified as being nationally important. The sites of abandoned chapels, where positively identified, are particularly worthy of statutory protection as they were often left largely undisturbed and thus retain important information about the nature and date of their use up to their abandonment.

St Clether's Chapel and Holy Well chapel and holy well survive well, despite some restoration in the late 19th century. Both the chapel and well buildings are considered to date from the 15th century but have earlier origins. The enclosure within which they are sited is believed to date from this rebuilding of the 15th century. The chapel is one of the largest well chapels in Cornwall, amd the arangement of the water from the well through the chapel is unique. This is probably the best surviving example of chapel and holy well in their own enclosure. Services are still occasionally held in the chapel in the summer months.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a medieval chapel, known as St Clethers, and a holy well set in a small enclosure situated to the north west of the church at St Clether. The chapel survives as a rectangular, stone built structure with a pitched slate roof and is Listed Grade II*. It measures 7.8m long by 5.2m wide, and is orientated north west-south east. The walls are 0.9m thick, constructed of greenstone with granite quoins and window and door surrounds. There are two entrances, one at the north west end of the building and one in the north east side. Both have wooden doors. There is a large window in the south east wall above the altar which consists of a large granite slab with incised consecration crosses set on two roughly shaped blocks of granite. There is a small window in the south west wall above an arched entrance to a well basin. The water from the holy well, located to the north east of the chapel, runs through a stone channel behind the altar and collects in the basin in the south east corner of the chapel wall. This channel is visible to the north east of the altar. There is a rectangular hole in the wall above the basin, which gives access to the water from the interior of the chapel. There is a third window above the north west entrance and a granite corbel set high on the north east wall. At the apex of the south east end of the roof is a small stone cross. The holy well, which is also Listed Grade II*, is located upslope from the chapel, at its north east corner. It survives as a small stone structure with a pitched granite roof, over a well basin. The well house measures 1.77m long by 2m wide and is orientated north east-south west. Two low granite walls extend outwards to either side of the entrance, and a rounded arched doorway gives access to the well basin where there is clear water to a depth of 0.32m. The water seeps through a groove in the granite edge to the well basin into a covered stone channel into the chapel. The chapel and well are situated in a small rectanglar enclosure, measuring approximately 20m north west-south east by 25m north east-south west, on a steeply sloping hillside. The north east side of the enclosure is formed by a field boundary running along the valley side. On three sides the enclosure is formed by a broad, low earth bank, but on the south west side it is formed by a stone revetted scarp. A break in the bank to the south east gives access to the enclosure from the direction of St Clether church. There is a local tradition that the well and chapel were built by St Clether in the early medieval period and that the altar dates from this time. The chapel was rebuilt in the 15th century when arrangements to conduct water from the well through the chapel were made. It is also believed that the enclosure was created at the same time. The two entrances to the chapel were probably designed to conduct pilgrims through the chapel. The well basin built into the wall of the chapel with access to the interior was probably designed so that the priest could accept offerings from pilgrims. The chapel and well fell into disuse, and were partly rebuilt in the late 19th century, when the upper part of the walls were rebuilt and a new roof put on the chapel. In the early 1990's the chapel was repointed and more recently the roof of the well has been restored. The post and wire fence around the chapel enclosure, the wooden benches, chairs, tables, the mat on the chapel floor, and the wooden shelf in the south east window are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 31824

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Gradwell, R, St Clether Well Chapel, (1989)
Gradwell, R, St Clether Well Chapel, (1989)
Preston-Jones, A, Attwell, D, Repairs to St Clether Holy Well, (1995)
Preston-Jones, A, Attwell, D, Repairs to St Clether Holy Well, (1995)
Baring Gould, S, 'Cornish Magazine' in The Well Chapel of St Clether, (1898)
Consulted July 1997, AM7 for CO 1055,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 28/38; Pathfinder Series 1326 Source Date: 1989 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing